Psalm 15:4
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honors them that fear the LORD. He that swears to his own hurt, and changes not.
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(4) In whose eyes.—The first clause is obscure. The subject and predicate are not clearly marked; but the Authorised Version gives the right sense. It is quite out of keeping with the context to make both verbs predicates, and to translate, “He is despised and rejected in his own eyes,” i.e., thinks humbly of himself. The meaning is, “Those deserving contempt are contemned; but the good who fear Jehovah are honoured.”

To his own hurt.—Literally, to do evil, i.e., to him-self (see Leviticus 5:4). The LXX., by transposing the letters, read, “to his neighbour;” and the English Prayer Book version has apparently combined the two thoughts: “Who sweareth to his neighbour, and dis-appointeth him not, even though it were to his own hindrance.”

“His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles,

His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;

His tears pure messengers sent from his heart,

His heart is far from fraud as heaven from earth.”

SHAKSPEARE: Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Psalm 15:4. In whose eyes — In whose judgment and estimation; a vile person — An ungodly or wicked man, (as appears from the next clause, in which he that feareth God is opposed to him,) is contemned — Or, thought meanly of, notwithstanding his wealth, or honour, or greatness, or even his learning and knowledge: who does not admire the person of such a one, or envy his condition, or court him with flatteries, or value his company and conversation, or approve of, or comply with, his course of life; but judges him a miserable man, and a great object of pity; abhors his practices, and labours to make such ways contemptible to all men, as far as lies in his power. It must be observed, however, that this contemning or thinking meanly of ungodly men, does not imply a contempt of just authority, which, if it be lodged even in a wicked man’s hand, claims not only obedience, but also honour and reverence, as is manifest from the precepts and examples of Christ and his apostles. But he honoureth them that fear the Lord — He highly esteems and cordially loves them, and shows them great respect and kindness, even though they be mean and obscure as to their worldly condition, and though they may differ from him in some opinions or practices of lesser moment. That sweareth to his own hurt — Promises and engages upon oath to do something which may be beneficial to his neighbour, but apparently will be to his own damage. As if a man solemnly swear that he will sell his neighbour such an estate at a price below the full worth; or that he will give a poor man such a sum of money, to give which afterward he finds inconvenient to him. And changeth not — His purpose, but continues firm, and resolved to perform his promise.15:1-5 The way to heaven, if we would be happy, we must be holy. We are encouraged to walk in that way. - Here is a very serious question concerning the character of a citizen of Zion. It is the happiness of glorified saints, that they dwell in the holy hill; they are at home there, they shall be for ever there. It concerns us to make it sure to ourselves that we have a place among them. A very plain and particular answer is here given. Those who desire to know their duty, will find the Scripture a very faithful director, and conscience a faithful monitor. A citizen of Zion is sincere in his religion. He is really what he professes to be, and endeavours to stand complete in all the will of God. He is just both to God and man; and, in speaking to both, speaks the truth in his heart. He scorns and abhors wrong and fraud; he cannot reckon that a good bargain, nor a saving one, which is made with a lie; and knows that he who wrongs his neighbour will prove, in the end, to have most injured himself. He is very careful to do hurt to no man. He speaks evil of no man, makes not others' faults the matter of his common talk; he makes the best of every body, and the worst of nobody. If an ill-natured story be told him, he will disprove it if he can; if not, it goes no further. He values men by their virtue and piety. Wicked people are vile people, worthless, and good for nothing; so the word signifies. He thinks the worse of no man's piety for his poverty and mean condition. He reckons that serious piety puts honour upon a man, more than wealth, or a great name. He honours such, desires their conversation and an interest in their prayers, is glad to show them respect, or do them a kindness. By this we may judge of ourselves in some measure. Even wise and good men may swear to their own hurt: but see how strong the obligation is, a man must rather suffer loss to himself and his family, than wrong his neighbour. He will not increase his estate by extortion, or by bribery. He will not, for any gain, or hope of it to himself, do any thing to hurt a righteous cause. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a Rock. He that doeth these things shall not be moved for ever. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him. The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Saviour, and love to him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.In whose eyes a vile person is contemned - That is, who does not show respect to a man of base or bad character on account of his wealth, his position, or his rank in life. He estimates character as it is in itself, and not as derived from rank, relationship, or station. While, as stated in the previous verse, he is not disposed to take up a false or evil report against another, he is at the same time disposed to do justice to all, and does not honor those who do not deserve to be honored, or apologise for base conduct because it is committed by one of exalted station or rank. Loving virtue and piety for their own sake, he hates all that is opposite; and where conduct deserves reprobation, no matter where found, he does not hesitate to avow his conviction in regard to it. The sentiment here is substantially the same as in Psalm 1:1. See the notes at that verse.

But he honoreth them that fear the Lord - No matter in what rank or condition of life they may be found. Where there is true piety he honors it. He is willing to be known as one that honors it, and is willing to bear all the reproach that may be connected with such a deeply cherished respect, and with such an avowal. Compare Psalm 1:1.

He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not - Who has made a promise, or entered into a contract, that is likely to turn out contrary to his expectations, to his own disadvantage; but who still adheres to his engagement. If the thing itself is wrong; if he has made a promise, or pledged himself to do a wicked thing, he cannot be under obligation to execute it; he should at once abandon it (compare the notes at Matthew 14:9); but he is not at liberty to violate an agreement simply because it will be a loss to him, or because he ascertains that it will not be, as he supposed, to his advantage. The principles here laid down will extend to all contracts or agreements, pecuniary or otherwise, and should be a general principle regulating all our transactions with our fellow-men. The only limitation in the rule is that above stated, when the promise or the contract would involve that which is morally wrong.

4. Love and hate are regulated by a regard to God.

sweareth … hurt—or what so results (compare Le 5:4).

In whose eyes, i.e. in whose judgment and estimation,

a vile person, i.e. one, that deserves contempt, an ungodly or wicked man, as appears from the next clause, where he that feareth God is opposed to him,

is contemned or despised, notwithstanding all his wealth, and glory, and greatness. He doth not admire his person, nor envy his condition, nor court him with flatteries, nor value his company and conversation, nor approve of or comply with his courses; but he thinks meanly of him; he judgeth him a most miserable man, and a great object of pity; he abhors his wicked practices, and labours to make such ways contemptible and hateful to all men as far as it lies in his power. But this contempt of wicked men must be so managed as not to cause a contempt of just authority, which if it be lodged in a wicked hand, doth challenge not only obedience, but also honour and reverence; as is manifest from the precepts and examples of Christ and of his apostles, who charge this upon the Christians every where, although the magistrates of those times were unquestionably vile and wicked men. See Acts 23:5 Ro 13 1 Peter 5:13, &c. He honoureth, i.e. he highly esteemeth and heartily loveth them, and showeth great respect and kindness to them, though they be mean and obscure as to their worldly condition, and though they may differ from him in some opinions or practices of lesser moment. He that sweareth, to wit, a promissory oath, engaging himself by solemn oath to do something which may be beneficial to his neighbour.

To his own hurt, i.e. to his own damage or prejudice. As if a man solemnly swear by the name of the great God, that he will sell him such an estate at a price below the full worth, or that he will give a poor man such a sum of money, which when afterwards he comes to review and consider, he finds it very inconvenient and burdensome to him, where he is tempted to break his oath.

Changeth not, to wit, his purpose or course, but continues firm and resolved to perform his promise, and sacrificeth his interest and profit to his conscience, and the reverence of God and of an oath. See Ezekiel 17:18,19. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned,.... A "vile" man is a very wicked, profligate, and abandoned creature, one that is to every good work reprobate; and such sometimes are in high places, Psalm 12:8; and are greatly caressed and esteemed by the men of the world; but then, as they are an abomination to God, they should be despised by his people, let them be what they will as to their riches, honours, and wisdom among men; as Haman was by Mordecai, Esther 3:2; and Ahab by Elisha, 2 Kings 3:14; and such who keep company with, and express a delight and pleasure in such sort of persons, ought by no means to have a place in the house of God. Some understand this of a good man being "despised in his own eyes", as it may be rendered (f); on account of his vileness, and the imperfection of his obedience, and as expressive of his great humility, esteeming others better than himself; and who renounces himself, and is rejected by himself, having a very mean opinion of himself; which is the sense of the Targum, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi; and which is no bad sense, though the former is countenanced by what follows;

but he honoureth them that fear the Lord; who have the covenant grace of fear wrought in their hearts, and serve the Lord with reverence and godly fear; that is, who are truly religious and godly persons; these such who are fit members of the church of Christ love heartily, esteem of highly, and honour them by thinking and speaking well of them, and behaving with great respect and decency to them; see Romans 12:10;

he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not; having taken a solemn oath, so sacred is it with him, and such a regard has he to the name of God, by whom he swears, that though it is to his civil loss and detriment, yet he will not break it and depart from it, but punctually observe it: some render it, "he that swears to his neighbour, and changeth not" (g); he that is just to his word, faithful to his promises, that exactly fulfils all the obligations he lays himself under unto others; he that is honest and upright in all his dealings. The Jewish writers interpret this clause of a man's vowing and swearing to afflict himself by fasting, which, though it is to the emaciating of his body, yet he strictly observes his vow or oath; but this is foreign from the scope of the place: it might be rendered, "he that swears to do evil, and does not recompense or perform" (h), it being better to break through such an oath than to keep it; see Leviticus 5:4.

(f) "qui despicit se in oculis suis", so some in Vatablus; "ille est despectus in propriis oculis, reprobatus", Gussetius, p. 453. (g) , Sept. "proximo suo", V. L. Sic. Syr. Ar. Aethiop. (h) So Ainsworth.

{b} In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

(b) He who flatters not the ungodly in their wickedness.

4. Render with R.V.,

In whose eyes a reprobate is despised.

The truthfulness of his character is shewn in his estimate of men. The world’s false estimates are one of the evils which will disappear in the Messianic age (Isaiah 32:5 ff.). A reprobate, one who is not good metal but worthless dross (Jeremiah 6:30), he treats with well-merited contempt, while ‘he honoureth those that fear Jehovah.’

By the Targum and some commentators, ancient and modern, the clause is rendered, despised is he in his own eyes, rejected, which is well paraphrased in P.B.V. “He that setteth not by himself, but is lowly in his own eyes;” cp. 2 Samuel 6:22. But (1) the words ‘despicable reprobate’ are such as David could hardly use to express humility and self-abasement; and (2) the contrast required by the parallelism is not ‘he despises himself and honours others,’ but ‘he abhors the base and honours the godly,’ i.e. shews right discernment in his regard for men. Cp. Psalm 16:3; 1 Samuel 2:30.

He that sweareth &c] Though he hath sworn to his own hurt, he changeth not. He performs his oaths and vows without modification or rebatement, even though they may have been rashly made and prove to be to his own disadvantage. Comp. the phrase in the Law for the expiation of rash oaths (Leviticus 5:4), “if any one swear rashly with his lips to do evil or to do good.” Any ‘changing’ of animals devoted by vows (which were of the nature of oaths) was expressly forbidden (Leviticus 27:10). Here the reference is quite general.

The LXX, Vulg., and Syr. render, by a slight change of vocalisation, to his fellow (cp. Psalm 15:3): and P.B.V. (as in Psalm 84:7) combines both renderings in its paraphrase, ‘He that sweareth unto his neighbour and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance.’Verse 4. - In whose eyes a vile person is contemned. So the LXX., the Vulgate, Ewald, Hupfeld, Hengstenberg, and the Revised Version. Others prefer to translate, "He is despised in his own eyes, [and] worthless" (Abort Ezra, Hitzig, Delitzsch, Kay, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Either rendering furnishes a good sense; but the law of parallelism is very decidedly in favour of the former. As the righteous man honors those who fear God, so he contemns those who are vile or worthless. He is no respecter of persons. Men's outward circumstances are nothing to him. He awards honour or contempt according to men's moral qualities. But he honoreth them that fear the Lord. "It is no common virtue," says Calvin, "to honour pious and godly men, since in the opinion of the world they are often as the offscouring of all things (1 Corinthans 4:13)? He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. The righteous man, if he happens to have sworn to do something which it turns out will be to his own hurt, nevertheless keeps his engagement (comp Leviticus 5:4, where לְהָרַע is used in the same sense). When Jahve thus bursts forth in scorn His word, which never fails in its working, smites down these brutish men, who are without knowledge and conscience. The local demonstrative שׁם is used as temporal in this passage just as in Psalm 66:6; Hosea 2:17; Zephaniah 1:14; Job 23:7; Job 35:12, and is joined with the perfect of certainty, as in Job 36:13, where it has not so much a temporal as a local sense. It does not mean "there equals at a future time," as pointing into the indefinite future, but "there equals then," when God shall thus speak to them in His anger. Intensity is here given to the verb פּחד by the addition of a substantival object of the same root, just as is frequently the case in the more elevated style, e.g., Habakkuk 3:9; and as is done in other cases by the addition of the adverbial infinitive. Then, when God's long-suffering changes into wrath, terror at His judgement seizes them and they tremble through and through. This judgment of wrath, however, is on the other hand a revelation of love. Jahve avenges and thus delivers those whom He calls עמּי (My people); and who are here called דּור צדּיק, the generation of the righteous, in opposition to the corrupted humanity of the time (Psalm 12:8), as being conformed to the will of God and held together by a superior spirit to the prevailing spirit of the age. They are so called inasmuch as דּור passes over from the signification generatio to that of genus hominum here and also elsewhere, when it is not merely a temporal, but a moral notion; cf. Psalm 24:6; Psalm 83:15; Psalm 112:2, where it uniformly denotes the whole of the children of God who are in bondage in the world and longing for deliverance, not Israel collectively in antithesis to the Scythians and the heathen in general (Hitzig).
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